Are you more balanced now than you were twelve weeks ago? I hope so, because during that time we have covered twelve vital strategies for achieving Work / Life Balance. If you missed a week or two, “Don’t worry! Be Happy!” This Provision summaries them all. Put them into practice for better balance all the way around.
When it comes to Work / Life Balance, the decisions we make and the actions we take can mean the difference between success and failure. Molly Ivins reminded us of the adage regarding the first rule of holes: “When you are in one, stop digging.” And that is how we started our journey twelve weeks ago.
1. Stop Digging. Given the rapid changes in society and technology, it’s understandable that some of our mindsets are now out of date. Simply put, some of our behaviours no longer match our beliefs.
Women working, but still taking on the bulk of domestic duties, is an example. Thinking we can get all of our work done, before playing, is another. Life has accelerated and changed. There is hope for Work / Life Balance, but first our mindsets must catch up with the world around us. To do this we must STOP: Step back, Think, and Organize our thoughts before Proceeding. We must STOP expecting what doesn’t work to magically start working. We can then open ourselves to new ways of seeing, thinking, and feeling about situations.
2. Name Our Claim. To achieve Work / Life Balance we must know what we want in order to ask for it. Since we typically receive only what we ask for, it is our job to become urgent about naming our claim and being specific about it. Naming the wrong claim can leave us working our entire lives for things we really don’t want, and perhaps completely missing out on things we do want as time passes by.
Actively naming our claim connects us with passion for the things we want to have, be, and do. And having passion leads to a sense of balance, meaning, and satisfaction. One way to start is to simply follow our interests without any regard for how much money they can make, or how good we are at them. If they inspire us, or even anger us, we can continue following them out into the world. The Live-8 concert Click is a great example of finding passion by following anger at injustice.
Being realistic is important when naming our claim. Even with major goals, it’s important to identify smaller, specific chunks that are both achievable and satisfying.
3. Balance Our Ballast. One thing that frees up our resources and makes room for our claims is the skill of clearing clutter and balancing ballast. In the course of our busy lives many of our personal tasks, responsibilities, goals, and aspirations are placed on the backburner. These things turn into clutter and unfinished business that weighs us down. The longer unfinished business hangs around, the heavier it becomes.
By unburdening ourselves of unnecessary weight, we give ourselves the room and resources to rise to our goals. Clearing our clutter, whether it is physical, mental, or emotional, can clear our heads and energise our bodies. It may be a little scary, but if we start small we are on our way to balance. Scheduling some time today is a great way to get started.
4. Balance “Yes” With “No”. Balancing “Yes” with “No” is a key skill in deciding what to take on and what to get rid of. We do it often because every time we say “Yes” to one thing we automatically say “No” to something else. Balancing “Yes” with “No” is a simple form of setting boundaries to protect our performance and manage ourselves, so we can be there for ourselves and others.
In today’s rapidly changing world, full of competing demands and desires, flexibility is important. I have worked with people in the USA and Australia who would excuse themselves from a meeting at 3pm to go see their son play soccer. The next week those same people would willingly travel away from home on business, working long hours and going without seeing their children. These people were actively balancing “Yes” with “No” across the people and areas of their lives that matter.
Balancing “Yes” with “No” can be difficult at times. People will resist our efforts, but we owe it to ourselves to learn how to do this. And with practice, it gets easier. Saying “No” gives meaning and respect to our “Yeses.” Saying “Yes” gives support and strength to our “No’s.”
5. Balance Our Energy. Balancing our energy is a crucial decision that affects our Work / Life Balance. For sustained performance, we must balance our energy the same way professional athletes do. In sport, stress can generate results but only if it is followed by recovery. By implementing a rhythm that alternates us between stress and recovery, we balance our energy for maximum return. If we break the journey down into multiple legs with defined rest stops, we can enjoy the both achievements along the way and the relaxing rest at those stops. Doing this helps us to operate at our peak physical, mental, and emotional levels more often.
We can start this by doing the basic things we already know, like choosing to eat well, maintaining good sleep patterns, taking regular breaks every 90 minutes, keeping fit, and enjoying both our work and leisure time. Regardless of how “important” our role in life is, giving ourselves permission to renew our energy leads to sustainable satisfaction and performance.
6. Choose Our Speed. Being stuck in fast forward is a big energy drainer that slowly lowers our level of performance. We live in a society that is obsessed with speed. Choosing to go fast all the time is not sustainable. Sometimes we even choose to go fast for no good reason. We multi-task and multi-people, as we simultaneously speak on the phone, scan our email and read a note that someone pushes under our nose.
We are overstimulated, suffering from what Linda Stone calls “Continuous Partial Attention.” We are left feeling foggy, stressed, overwhelmed, and unsatisfied. Time management gurus assist us to learn how to go faster and faster, but this leads to the phenomenon of time-sickness and overwhelm. Instead, we can choose our speed when and where it makes sense.
Some things cannot be rushed, like time with our children, important client meetings, or work that requires our concentration and creativity. Giving people our full attention will become the new competitive differentiator. Being afraid we will miss something makes us hurry. But hurrying all the time leads us straight to what we fear most: missing out on life and its opportunities.
How do we start? Bring back the first thing that was lost in the rush • take occasional breaks. At work, find moments to unplug from the technology in order to take some uninterrupted think time. Away from the office, resist the temptation to be reachable all the time. Review how many things at work and at play you are taking on and whether they are absolutely required. Ultimately, it’s about choosing to work at the “right” speed on the right task.
7. Design Our Environments. Designing our environments is a great way to automate and remove a lot of effort. Our environments include many things like personal habits, relationships, physical environments like our home, office, and technology, as well as our habitual ways of thinking, feeling, and doing things. Almost anything that we interact with is an environment that can be designed to work for us. We are natural environmental designers who respond automatically to the environments that surround us.
Designed environments bolster the new changes we make to achieve Work / Life Balance. We can craft our environments so they continue to craft us. This is the key to creating repeatable and consistent performance. After we design and redesign environments to work best for us, we need to surrender to them and let them work for us.
8. Reach For Enough. Working toward and enjoying success is something we all want, but how will we know when we have reached success? First we must have our own definition of “enough.” Reaching for “enough” is reaching for our definition of success across the range of our needs, not just one need.
Limitless ideas of success are hard to reach and set us up for failure. Achieving success on our terms requires us to sharpen our idea of what we are aiming for. Instead of trying to have it all and do it all, we aim for what is “enough” to satisfy our needs. When we go beyond what is “enough,” we waste our passion, energy, and enjoyment at the expense of our other needs.
Reaching for “enough” is not just about defining quantity. It must define the quality of the content we are aiming for. Using “enough” as our game plan, someone may surpass us on one dimension, but having a multidimensional strategy assures us we are working on reaching our definition of success. Knowing this, we accept and even welcome it when our performance goes up or down in one area while we attend to other needs.
9. Set A Strategy. To reach enough, we need a map to follow • a strategy map that we can draw for ourselves. We start drawing it by assessing where we are now and which direction we are headed. We can then validate our assessment by applying a 360 approach that asks for input from our friends and family.
Our map must address our needs and wants. Using the SMART goal method (goals that areSpecific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-bound) is a great way to sketch this out.
When we start to follow the map, flexibility is important. As is being realistic and allowing periods of natural focus when required. We cannot outsource our strategy for Work / Life Balance. And why would we want to?
10. Take One Step. Taking the first step can seem like crossing a huge gap unless we find a stepping stone. Bridging the gap with a stepping stone takes realising that we are the only one who can choose the right stepping stone, and we are the only one who can take that one step. No one can take it for us. Others may walk beside us or even walk ahead of us to show the way, but no one can force us. Only we can take that one step onto our stepping stone.
There are many ways to find and take that first step. Being willing to make small changes, try experiments, and be open to possibilities are ways to start crossing the gap.
11. Practice Inner Balance. Being in balance on the outside is not sustainable until we find balance on the inside. Inner balance is our source of clarity and wisdom. It is our spiritual intelligence (SQ) • the balance of both mind and soul. It is what we need when we are overwhelmed or unable to think clearly, when the mind is dominating most of the balance.
How do we tell if we are out of balance on the inside? We are stuck in our thinking. The kind of thinking that “lowers our spirits” and leaves us feeling worse than before we started.
How can we practice inner balance? Spiritual teachers and psychology professors have the same message: by detaching from our errant thoughts, the ones that run off without us asking them to. Instead we can watch them go by, take a breath or refocusing our mind on the task at hand by bringing it into the present moment instead of letting it worry about the past or future.
There are no exceptions. When the stakes are high, getting back into balance is the best thing we can do. Where would you rather solve a high-stakes problem from: Thinking that leaves you feeling confused and worse off, or from a state of clarity and wisdom?
12. Aim Our Attitude. Our ability to aim our attitude may be our most valuable capacity of all. We must aim our attitude in the right direction if we hope to get where we want to go. Like the attitude of an aircraft, our attitude will determine if we are going up, down, away from, or toward our destination. Set in the wrong direction we can easily find ourselves heading toward something worse.
Our attitude is either helping us or hindering us. While we are not usually responsible for life’s changing conditions, we are always responsible for how we respond to those conditions in the present moment.
We first aim our attitude and then it aims us. As Herm Albright reminds us: “A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.”
I have enjoyed the opportunity to share these Provisions with you over the past 12 weeks. Best wishes for your ongoing Work / Life Balance journey. Bon Voyage! Write me a postcard or emailand let me know about your travels • Mike Alafaci. Brisbane, Australia
Coaching Inquiries: How could you put these ideas to work each day? How could you move from being entertained by them, to being transformed by them? Who could help you? What would you do first?
This Provision, and each Provision in our series on Work / Life Balance, is written by Michael J. Alafaci of www.SolutionMaps.com • Copyright Solution Maps 2005. All rights reserved. You can contact Mike by email or phone, in Australia, at 61-7-3311-5361.
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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, Email Bob or use our online Feedback Form.
Thanks for tipping folks off to the Enneagram in Coaching Special Interest Group. I recommend you to others as well, advising them that yours is the single newsletter in the Coaching community that I read every week.
I loved the Provision on “Aim Your Attitude.” It reminded me of when my daughter was little and we’d want to get her excited about going for a walk along the river. Taking a walk or taking a hike could never get her going. We started saying “let’s go on an explore.” Explore meant not just walking (work) but stopping, poking around in the dirt, picking up rocks and leaves and snakes (fun). “Explore” aimed her attitude.
Thank you very much for the last Provision, “Aim Your Attitude.” Mike has definitely worked towards an apotheosis in these Provisions. The metaphor of the airplane rudder has been a piece of the puzzle I have been looking for for quite a while. And all of a sudden, there you provided it. Thanks.
I like your thoughts on Healthy Treats. As you probably know, I coach a marathon training program for the American Stroke Association. I send out a weekly newsletter to them with an article on training, injury prevention, nutrition, etc. Would it be OK if I were to send out a copy of your article in my newsletter? I’ll certainly refer to the source. (Ed. Note: Absolutely! You may want to include a link to our entire archive of Wellness Pathways. Click Thanks.)
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
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